We should pray because Jesus did. Sounds convincing doesn't it, but you might as well say we should walk on water or heal lepers or feed 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish or still the storm or raise the dead; because Jesus did. He prayed because he was special. He had a relationship with God since the beginning of time. Apart from the desolation of the cross, they had always been together. They had been inseparable. Jesus is up there and we are down here, how can we presume to do what he did?
But we have just seen that we are children of God. Romans 8:17 tells us that we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. Galatians 5:7 tells us we are no longer slaves but sons; and since we are sons, God has also made us heirs. I Peter 3:7 tells us husbands that our wives are heirs with us of the gracious gift of life so that nothing will hinder our prayers.
See how being an heir is linked with prayer. And of course it should be. If we object to praying on the ground that God is so distant that he could not possible listen to me, the fact that He has brought us close by making us heirs should answer that objection.
I think that our reluctance to pray in part comes from our rebellion against being told what to do. If you are anything like me, you like to make your own decisions about things. Instructions to young Christians that they must pray morning and evening and read through their Bibles three times a year are very laudable, but make communion with God a task to be fulfilled rather than a relationship to be established. As if getting to the end were the purpose rather than enjoying the journey. That's why I have entitled this piece, "Building a relationship with God".
OK, but a relationship requires a two-way conversation. Not only have I never heard God speak to me in an audible voice, but I don't know anyone who has - at least no-one outside an asylum for schizophrenics. Oh, how I long for a word from God!
Silly! I have the Bible. God has spoken. Think how many times when troubles have beset me that a verse of Scripture springs to my mind. Think how many times a faithful pastor has brought a word of God to my situation. Think how many times a Christian friend has spoken a word into my circumstances. Think how many times someone has intervened to relieve my troubles. Think how many times my enemies have been thwarted. Dare I say that my conversation is one way?
Philip Yancy tells a story from a time early in his marriage. He was staying at a four-bedroom guest house with no other occupants. Over dinner he and his wife had had cross words and though they sat up late trying to resolve the problem the anger escalated and eventually he stomped off to bed. A few minutes later the door opened and his wife appeared with a new set of arguments. He wouldn't listen and fled to another bedroom. A few minutes later the same thing happened and off he went to yet another bedroom. It had all the trappings of a Whitehall farce and of course in the morning they saw the comical side. But the message is (and don't all we married couples know it) not communicating is worse than fighting.
This illustration is particularly apposite because the Bible calls us the bride of Christ. If we are not speaking, is it because we have had a marital spat? For some of us the sulks have been going on for a long time.